Veterans Justice Court Expands to Help Veterans Citywide Receive Services

San Francisco’s Veterans Justice Court in the Tenderloin neighborhood will expand in January 2015 with a standalone court at the Hall of Justice that will provide services to military veterans across the city.

San Francisco Superior Court Presiding Judge Cynthia Ming-mei Lee announced today that the Veterans Justice Court will be expanding its services to all veterans across the city regardless of their neighborhood.

The Veterans Justice Court is a pilot program that was launched in 2013 to help veterans in trouble with the law obtain veteran services.

“This expansion will allow the Court to help San Francisco veterans facing certain criminal charges resolve their cases while connecting them to vital services,” Lee said.

The veterans court aims to provide those who have left the U.S. military and are returning from conflict zones with the services they need to stay out of San Francisco jails and correctional institutions, according to the San Francisco Superior Court website.

The Veterans Justice Court, which has been operated by San Francisco Superior Court’s Community Justice Center for almost two years, provides services to qualifying veterans who are residents of, or were arrested in, the Tenderloin, South of Market, Union Square or Civic Center areas, according to the San Francisco Superior Court website.

In January, the Veterans Justice Court will increase its caseload from 35 to an estimated 50 clients and take on clients from across the city.

Those eligible for full federal benefits for veterans may receive services such as housing, financial support, medical or therapeutic treatment, rehabilitation, and education, while those who are ineligible may be provided with city services such as transitional housing or residential treatment, according to San Francisco Superior Court.

With more than 1,000 veterans arrested and processed in San Francisco each year, many veterans may still not be offered services via the Veterans Justice Court, according to the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center.

The expansion is the result of a three-year $350,000 federal grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, according to the San Francisco Superior Court.

Following successful completion of a 12- to 18-month-long program, veterans may be eligible to receive early probation termination, case dismissal, withdrawal of the criminal complaint, diversion, deferred entry of judgment or charge reduction, according to the San Francisco Superior Court.

On Jan. 9, the Veterans Justice Court will convene for the first time in Department 21 at the San Francisco Hall of Justice with Judge Jeffrey S. Ross presiding over the courtroom.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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